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THE MARTYR OF THE ARENA.
1. Hast thou heard, in Rome's declining day,
How a youth, by Christian zeal impelled, Swept the sanguinary games away
Which the Coliseum once beheld ? 2. Filled with gazing thousands were the tiers,
With the city's chivalry and pride, When two gladiators, with their spears,
Forward sprang from the arena's side. 3. Rang the dome with plaudits loud and long
As, with shields advanced, the athletes stood. Was there no one in that eager throng
To denounce the spectacle of blood ? 4. Ay, Telemachus, with swelling frame,
Saw the inhuman sport renewed once more. Few among
the crowd could tell his name,
Stepped he forth upon the circling sand,
Checked the encounter with a daring hand. 6. “Romans,” cried he, “ let this reeking sod
Never more with human blood be stained, Let no image of the living God
In unhallowed combat be profaned! 7. “Ah! too long has this colossal dome
Failed to sink, and hide your brutal shows. Here, I call upon assembled Rome,
Now to swear they shall for ever close!”
8. Parted thus, the combatants, with joy,
'Mid the tumult found the means to fly. In the arena stood the undaunted boy,
And, with looks adoring, gazed on high. 9. Pealed the shout of wrath on every side,
Every hand was eager to assail.
Wild with fury. But he did not quail. 10. Hears he, as, entranced, he looks above,
Strains celestial, that the menace drown.
Beckoning to him with a martyr's crown. 11. Fiercer swelled the people's frantic shout,
Launched against him flew the stones like rain. Death and terror circled him about;
But he stood and perished—not in vain: 12. Not in vain the youthful martyr fell,
Then and there he crushed a bloody creed,
Future heroes to as great a deed. 13. Stony answers yet remain for those
Who would question and precede the time.
-Epes Sargent (1816)
The Coliseum (Colosseum), the grandest of all the Roman amphitheatres. It accommodated nearly 100,000 spectators. Here wild beasts fought with men or with one another, and swordsmen or gladiators contended to the death “to make a Roman holiday.”
Telemachus was an Asiatic monk who, it is said, caused the gladiatorial combats at Rome to be abolished. In the year 404, on one occasion when the shows were proceeding in the amphitheatre, Telemachus, prompted by Christian zeal, sprang into the arena and sought to put an end to the bloody contest. The spectators stoned him to death but afterwards he was proclaimed a martyr, and gladiatorial shows soon afterwards came to an end.
THE FIXED STARS.
1. The discoveries of science widen the empire of creation far beyond the limits which were formerly assigned to it. They give us to see that yon sun, throned in the centre of his planetary system, gives light and warmth, and the vicissitude of seasons, to an extent of surface several hundreds of times greater than that of the earth which we inhabit. They lay open to us a number of worlds rolling in their respective circles around this vast luminary; and prove that the ball which we tread upon,
with all its mighty burden of oceans and continents, instead of being distinguished from the others, is among the least of them, and from some of the more distant planets would not occupy a visible point in the concave of their firmament.
2. They let us know that though this mighty earth with all its myriads of people were to sink into annihilation, there are some worlds where an event so awful to us would be unnoticed and unknown, and others where it would be nothing more than the disappearance of a little star which had ceased from its twinkling.
3. We should feel a sentiment of modesty at this humiliating but just representation. We should learn not to look on our earth as the universe of God, but as one paltry and insignificant portion of it; that it is only one of the many mansions which the Supreme Being has created for the accommodation of his worshippers, and only one of the many worlds rolling in that flood of light which the sun pours around him to the outer limits of the planetary system.
4. But is there nothing beyond these limits? The planetary system has its boundary, but space has none; and if we wing our fancy there, do we only travel through dark and unoccupied regions? There are only five, or at most six of the planetary orbs visible to the naked eye. What then is that multitude of other lights, which sparkle in our firmament, and fill the whole concave of heaven with innumerable splendours?
5 The planets are all attached to the sun; and in circling around him they do homage to that influence which binds them to perpetual attendance on this great luminary. But the other stars do not own his dominion. They do not circle around him. To all common observation they remain immovable; and each like the independent sovereign of his own territory appears to occupy the same inflexible position in the regions of immensity.
6. What can we make of them! Shall we take our adventurous flight to explore these dark and untravelled dominions? What mean these innumerable fires lighted up in distant parts of the universe? Are they only made to shed a feeble glimmering over this little spot in the kingdom of nature? Or do they serve a purpose worthier of themselves, to light up other worlds, and give animation to other systems?
7. The first thing which strikes a scientific observer of the fixed stars is their immeasurable distance. If the whole planetary system were lighted up into a globe of fire, it would exceed by many millions of times, the magnitude of this world, and yet only appear a small lucid point from the nearest of them. If a body were projected from the sun with the velocity of a cannonball, it would take hundreds of thousands of years before
it described that mighty interval which separates the nearest of the fixed stars from our sun and from our system.
8. If this earth, which moves at more than the inconceivable velocity of a million and a half miles a day, were to be hurried from its orbit, and to take the same rapid flight over this immense tract, it would not have arrived at the termination of its journey after taking all the time which has elapsed since the creation of the world. These are great numbers and great calculations, and the mind feels its own impotency in attempting to grasp them. We can state them in words. We can exhibit them in figures. We can demonstrate them by the powers of a most rigid and infallible geometry.
9. But no human fancy can summon up a lively or an adequate conception-can roam in its ideal flight over this immeasurable largeness—can take in this mighty space in all its grandeur, and in all its immensity-can sweep the outer boundaries of such a creation- or lift itself up to the majesty of that great and invisible arm on which all is suspended. - Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847).
Questions on the lesson :- What are some of the truths taught by the discoveries of science regarding the limits of creation—the regions influenced by the sun, the earth as compared with other planets, the effect of our earth's annihilation? What are the thoughts these things should suggest? To what are the planets attached? What of the other stars in contrast to this? In what three different ways does the writer endeavour to give an idea of the greatness of the distance of the nearest of the fixed stars?